A division of Kindred Spirit Kindred Care, LLC

Shannon Fujimoto Nakaya, DVM


A website about birds and bird-related services on the island of Hawaii.

I found a wild bird. What should I do?

 Question 1: Is it ill or injured?

If the answer is NO, the bird is not ill and not injured.
  • In all likelihood, if it's not ill or injured and it allows you to approach it, it's a baby bird. Once they leave the nest, fledgling birds spend about 2 weeks on the ground learning how to fly and forage for food.  The parents are usually close by, supplementing their food, and providing guidance and encouragement.  Although birds are very vulnerable during this stage, it is an unavoidable part of growing up.  If you encounter a fledgling that does not appear ill or injured, it is best to leave it alone.  It's parents are likely nearby and will likely reclaim their chick once the threat of your presence is removed.  If you are concerned, observe quietly from a distance of at least 20 feet.
  • If you find a nest recently fallen from a tree that still contains baby birds, put the entire nest back in the tree.  If you can't find a good place to secure it, nail a small box or basket to the tree and put the nest in there. Even if you can't get it to the exact branch that it came from, the babies will usually cheap loudly enough to alert the parents as to their whereabouts.
  • If the baby bird is truly orphaned, it will probably starve or be preyed upon without intervention.  No one wants to watch a baby die, but please do not make the call that a bird is truly orphaned casually or hastily.  Give the parents a few hours of space and time.  Raising an orphaned baby bird is a LOT of work.  More importantly, there are social and survival skills that we as humans cannot teach them nearly as well as their bird parents can.  If after a few hours, you determine that a bird is truly orphaned, put it in a box as described below and contact appropriate resources for additional help.  The KSKC Wild Bird Project does not accept orphaned baby birds. 
  • Hawaii Island Bird Species of Interest are protected by state and federal laws. If the orphaned bird that you find happens to be on this list, any of the licensed rehabilitators on the island will take it in and channel it to the most appropriate rehabilitator or facility. When they are open,  Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) will facilitate transport.  phone: 887-6061 in west Hawaii and 974-4221 in east Hawaii.
  • Most of the wild birds that people find are non-native, non-endangered, introduced species such as doves, sparrows, finches, and mynahs.  Frankly, there are limited options available to raise these orphans.  People are often tempted to raise these baby birds themselves and you may be it's only option.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:
    • Most baby birds need to be fed every 30 minutes from sunrise to sunset.
    • They need to be kept warm, around the clock, until they are fully feathered.
    • They should not be allowed to imprint or bond to humans. Otherwise they turn into pets that are not releasable. If at all possible, it is preferable when several individuals of the same species can be raised together.
    • They should not become familiar witih dogs and cats in a friendly way. They need to learn to avoid predators.
    • They need exposure to natural habitats -- trees and grass and shrubs, not pet bird cages witih plastic dishes and toys. 
    • They need to learn to forage which means finding and offering foods that they will encounter in nature.
    • They need to learn to fly. They cannot do this in a parakeet cage or a dog crate. In order to seriously raise birds for release, you need a flight cage. 
    • They need to learn to seek a safe place to sleep at night, like a tall tree with lots of leaves.
    • Technicallly, it is not legal to harbor and propagate wild birds, even non-native and non-endangered wild birds. 
    • Without a proper facility and experience, it is very difficult to successfully raise a baby bird so that it can successfully be released back to the wild where it came from and survive
    • If you find a non-native, non-endangered orphaned baby bird and choose to raise it yourself, you need to be prepared to provide for it as a pet potentially for the rest of its life.
    • The KSKC Wild Bird Project does not accept orphaned baby birds. 
If the answer is YES, the bird is ill or injured.
  • If a wild bird is ill or injured, it speaks of our humanity to lend it a hand.  Often times, a wild bird has to be really ill and/or injured before it will allow a human to approach it. Some of them are just too far gone to save.  But you can at least give it a safe place to rest and connect it with someone who can do a proper evaluation, give it a chance if it has one, and at the very least, alleviate pain.
  • Gently pick the bird up. Having a towel or a blanket to drape over the entire bird, including its head, will usually make this easier for you and less stressful for the bird.  Once the bird is under the drape, you can gently scoop up the bundle without having to deal with flapping wings, kicking feet, and biting beaks.
    • Be particularly careful of talons if the bird is a hawk or owl, even if the bird appears to be severely compromised. Talons in these birds can cause serious injury.
    • Be particularly careful of the beak edges in waterbirds as they can be razor sharp.
  • Put it into a box or a pet carrier.  Make a couple of air holes in the side of the box and close the top of the box.  If you are using a carrier, then cover the carrier with a blanket or towel. It is very threatening to an injured wild bird when we stare at it.
Some other thoughts and comments:
  • Being a bird rehabilitator is a labor of love. It demands a tremendous amount of time and resources to do it right, with little if any financial gain. Not all birds that arrive will make it.  Rehabilitating wild birds requires both compassion and inner-strength, empathy and distance, determination and patience.  It requires dedicated space, separate from pets and protected from predators.  It requires working with others.  It is also an opportunity to preserve and interact with nature's diversity.  Information about becoming and being a licensed wildlife rehabilitator is available through the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association.  The state of Hawaii uses the NWRA's guidelines in issuing licenses.
  • Hawaii Island Bird Species of Interest are protected by state and federal regulations.  Nature never meant for these animals to be kept as pets.  Most of them are endangered or threatened.  When you speak with our island's state and federal government employees involved in managing our land and animals (as I have), it becomes clear that they are focused on protecting and preserving these endangered and threatened populations. Help them. Work with them. Malama ka manu.